It creaks when it grows and has its own triangle, but we won't keep you in the dark. Our food experts unearth the mysteries of rhubarb
What is rhubarb?
Despite its similar appearance to celery, rhubarb is no relation. These pink thick stalks are classed as a fruit, and actually part of the leafy sorrel, knotweed and buckwheat gang.
How do you cook rhubarb?
Rhubarb can be stewed but tends to go all mushy – so why not roast it instead? Wash and chop your rhubarb into finger-sized pieces and pop in an ovenproof dish. Sprinkle generously with sugar, cover with foil and roast on high for 20 minutes. Or try this roasted rhubarb recipe – delicious with vanilla ice cream or creamy mascarpone cheese.
What is the rhubarb triangle?
It’s not a culinary version of the Bermuda triangle! The rhubarb triangle is an area of West Yorkshire that’s famously been cultivating rhubarb for over 100 years. Mysteriously, debate rages as to the definitive location of the triangle's apexes – so you’d better pack your compass after all.
When is rhubarb in season?
Forced rhubarb (watermelon pink, with pale green leaves) is on the scene from February to April, but maincrop rhubarb (deeper red stalks tinged with green) lasts through April to July.
What is rhubarb good for?
Historically, rhubarb has been known as a laxative. But don’t worry, only consuming huge quantities will have you running to the loo. That aside, it’s also full of lutein (a compound that’s good for your skin and eyes), as well as containing vitamin K and, strangely enough, calcium. Rhubarb is also used in the theatre – as the ‘crowd’ on stage is often asked to repeat "rhubarb, rhubarb, rhubarb" to reproduce the sound of background chatter.
How do I grow rhubarb?
If you’re a virgin vegetable grower, rhubarb is hardy and runs riot with little attention. Give yourself a head start with one-year-old plants known as crowns and plant in late autumn to early winter. Rhubarb flowers look pretty, but be brutal and deadhead them as soon as they appear – all they’ll do is weaken your plant.
Chuck away those poisonous leaves and get cooking with rhubarb stalks – here are some top rhubarb recipes: